A parade of vehicles heads down the street adjacent to the East Kootenay Regional Hospital on Thursday, April 2. Gidgetto Designs Photography.

Vehicle parades celebrate birthdays, recognize workers on COVID-19 front lines

Melissa Young started the parades in Cranbrook as a way to mark her son’s 12th birthday

While birthday parties have been put on hold due to social distancing directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that doesn’t mean people can’t get creative to mark important celebrations.

Melissa Young, who was searching for a way to celebrate her son’s 12th birthday, said she was inspired to organize a parade past her house as a way to mark the occasion.

She came across a post on social media where teachers were driving past their students’ houses and waving at their pupils and decided to borrow the idea.

“I thought that was such a cool idea that maybe it was something I could do for his birthday,” said Young, “so it occurred to me that he’s probably not the only one feeling this way and that there’s lots of kids probably stuck at home…”

She threw the idea out on a local Facebook page and the response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive.

video courtesy Gidgetto Designs Photography

It has grown to the point where five others have stepped in to help with organizing, while the driver pool has grown to approximately 100 people.

“The community response has been amazing,” she said.

Parades are organized through the Cranbrook Birthday Parades Facebook page, and spread out a few days at a time so people don’t get overwhelmed, said Young.

Young will make a post at the top of the page with dates, and people can request the parade swing by their house. Someone then collects and categorizes the addresses so that a parade route can be formalized.

Staging areas include the Western Financial Place parking lot or the Tamarack Centre parking lot and vehicles decked out streamers or props — such as tying a mock birthday present on the roof — get ready to hit the streets.

Requests for a parade by a house usually has a noon deadline, and the parades start at 7 p.m. to mark the time when people are encouraged to step outside to clap and cheer for hospital and health care workers.

Young adds that the B.C. Ambulance Service or the Cranbrook Fire Department will often join the parades if they can, while a traffic control driver leads the way.

Thought the parades were started as a way to mark birthdays, the group is also driving by places such as the East Kootenay Regional Hospital, the Cranbrook Fire Department, the Cranbrook RCMP detachment as well as care homes like Joseph Creek Village.

“It’s important to acknowledge those people who are putting themselves at risk, for sure, and keeping everybody safe,” Young said.

Though it began as a way to mark birthdays, the parades have blossomed into a gesture that holds meaning not just for those who witness it, whether it be families self-isolating at home or health care staff at the hospital, but for those who are driving in it.

“I think the value of it, for the people who are driving, is so huge because we’re all locked in our houses and we can’t socialize and we can’t go out,” said Young. “It just gives you a way to be able to get out of the house for half and hour, wave at your neighbour or your friend from your vehicle, because everyone’s been really good at maintaining social distancing, but just to have that connection and to get your mind off the negative and all that stuff that we’re being bombarded with all day, every day.”


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